Life in plastic, it’s (NOT) fantastic

by Jesse Oey 02/12/2021

A Sustainability Journey

So – the friendly folk at my local salad bar seem to like me a little more these days.

I suspect it’s for a number of reasons: one, because some of us have gradually been returning to work as of late, which means they’ve been able to reopen and see their customers again, including yours truly (amazing); and two: because I’ve been bringing my own reusable container for my daily salad order, which means they don’t have to spend money on single-use tubs for me (also amazing)!

Winner winner, waste-free dinner! Or lunch… You get my drift.

Such a trivial – even peculiar – thing to do, some of you may think. I have been bringing my own containers to takeaway places for a while now, and honestly I have had my fair share of weird looks and backhanded comments from fellow lunch-seekers over the years. A few raised eyebrows here, several “but you’ll need to wash more dishes!” remarks there, and just general vibes of silent bewilderment. It’s all very amusing to say the least.

Thankfully, as it turns out, BYO containers also make for excellent conversation starters with quite a few of these curious onlookers, too. I’ve had people ask me why I do it, how it helps benefit the environment, and whether they should start doing the same.

But why did I decide to start doing this?

Well, for starters: today, we produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year – 60% of which has ended in landfill, or out in the environment around us. If that’s not scary enough, plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so most of all plastic that has been produced to date still exists around us in some form.

A significant amount of plastic we consume is single-use, which means that as soon as it lands in our hands, it immediately becomes waste. Takeaway food boxes are among the worst offenders, along with single-use coffee cups and straws – but that’s a story for another day.

Hypothetically, if an average worker like me gets a takeaway lunch 3 days a week while at work, that’s 12 single-use tubs a month, and a whooping 144 tubs a year. Multiply that with the city’s population, and the number becomes incredibly terrifying pretty quickly – all for the sake of sheer convenience.

This is exactly why, for me, BYO takeaway tubs are the way to go. Aside from the extra washing I’ll need to do every day, which in all honestly stopped becoming an inconvenience a long time ago, creating this new habit took no time at all, and makes a real impact immediately. These days, I make sure I always have a clean container in my locker, ready to go – sometimes I’d even have a few tubs handy, in case a well-meaning colleague is eager to play along.

Through leading by example, and showing how easy and non-troublesome this simple choice can be, I’m hoping to create little ripples around me, slowly encouraging more people to become more aware of the footprints they leave behind, and hopefully to follow suit. After all, a tiny ripple, if sustained, can eventually turn into a huge wave of change.

Now here’s a challenge for you:

Remember to bring a container with you next time you go out to get some lunch. Start with once a week, if that’s even possible. Trust me, making a better choice feels really good – and the more you do it, the more I hope you can feel excited about the positive change you’re helping to drive.

Good luck!

Disclaimer: This blog is an opinion piece that is based on my own personal experiences, and nothing written here is intended to serve as legally-binding advice or formal recommendations. I recognise that every individual’s situation is unique, and your experiences may differ from mine in many ways. Healthy discussions and respectful dialogue are welcome and always encouraged.

by Jesse Oey

Jesse Oey is a marketer, photographer, and sustainability enthusiast based in Melbourne. Jesse’s journey towards a more socially-aware, environmentally-conscious way of life began in 2011 when he received a reusable coffee cup as a gift; since then, Jesse has been a strong advocate of sustainable living, passionate about learning, educating and raising awareness on how to reduce waste, make impact-led decisions on purchases and daily life habits, and invest money ethically.